Madrid, Paris, Ottawa, Quebec City, Washington, Los Angeles, Guatemala City, San José, Tegucigalpa, El Progreso – 12 September 2018

Seventeen international and Honduran organizations, including experts in human rights, international law and Honduran law, will take part in a mission to observe the first trial in the assassination of human rights defender Berta Cáceres. Eight defendants will be tried in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, from 17 September to 19 October 2018, for the murder of the Lenca indigenous leader, and for the attempted murder of Mexican environmental activist Gustavo Castor. The mission’s objective is to ensure that the trial complies with national and international standards. Observers will focus on due process rights, the right to an effective remedy, and the right to access to justice for victims.

“The proper administration of justice is an essential component of the rule of law. A functioning legal system that demonstrates its independence and impartiality is fundamental to any democratic society rooted in respect for human rights,” stated participating organizations. Organizers shared the announcement of the mission’s formation with the President of the Supreme Court of Honduras.

Berta Cáceres Flores, Coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), was assassinated on 2 March 2016 in her home in La Esperanza, Intibucá Department, Honduras.

In addition to being a land defender, Berta Cáceres worked to protect Indigenous and campesino cultural rights, and women’s rights. She was a distinguished social leader and the 2015 Goldman Prize winner, which is considered the highest honour for those dedicated to protecting the environment.

As a result of her struggle and work in defence of human rights, Berta Cáceres received numerous death threats and was the target of stigmatization and criminalization campaigns. This led the Inter-American Commission on Human rights (IACHR) to grant her precautionary protection measures as of 2009.

“The IACHR has, on several occasions, recognized the existence of structural impunity in Honduras, and for this reason our observation mission is a timely effort to monitor the judicial process and ensure that it complies with international standards,” added participating organizations.

During the observation mission, groups will meet with officials, prosecutors, diplomatic missions, and human rights organizations, as well as with attorneys for the defence and for the victims, to gain a full perspective of the trial process.

Participant organizations call on Honduran authorities to ensure that the trial proceeds in a manner that respects domestic legal standards, and is in line with Honduras’ international human rights obligations. This is particularly relevant at a time when the situation of human rights defenders in Honduras is in the international spotlight.


Canada: Geneviève Morency, Lawyers Without Borders

Canada:  Amanda Ghahremani, Canadian Centre for International Justice

Colombia: Reynaldo Villalba, Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo

Spain/France: Mikel Cordoba, Observatoire International des Avocats

United States: Annie Bird, Guatemala Human Rights Commission – USA

United States: Katharine Valencia, Due Process of Law Foundation

United States: Joseph Berra, The Promise Institute for Human Rights, UCLA School of Law

United States: Lauren Carasik, National Lawyers Guild

France: Natalia Yaya, International Federation for Human Rights

Guatemala: Francisco Soto, Centro de Acción Legal para los Derechos Humanos

Guatemala: Denis Martinez, Impunity Watch

Guatemala: Anabella Sibrián, Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad

Honduras: Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación

Honduras: Wilfredo Méndez, Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos

International: International Commission of Jurists

Nicaragua: El Centro de Asistencia Legal a Pueblos Indígenas

Regional: Francisca Stuardo, CEJIL

Affirming the fundamental right to a fair trial guaranteed by art. 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and recognizing UN Resolution 60/147 on the right of victims of serious human rights violations to legal recourse and reparations, we invoke Article 9(3)(b) of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which recognizes the right of trial observers : “to attend public hearings, proceedings and trials so as to form an opinion on their compliance with national law and applicable international obligations and commitments.”

Click here to view the original press release in Spanish.

Picture: Berta Zúñiga Cáceres, daugther of Berta Cáceres. (C) Daniel Cima / CIDH.